Shifting From Static: How To Pursue Your Passion And Start Living Life With Rusty Gaillard
Pursuing one’s passion is easier said than done. We often get so stuck in the loop of corporate life that we don’t even know what our passions are. In this episode, Rusty Gaillard joins Tony Martignetti to share the story of why he left a 25-year corporate career to lead a fulfilling career in coaching. Leaving a position at Apple, Rusty now works to help other top performers escape whatever career trap they may be in as an Executive Coach at Silicon Valley Dreambuilders. Rusty also boils his insights down in his book, Breaking The Code: Stop Looking for Answers and Start Enjoying Life. Tune in for a thought-provoking conversation on delimiting yourself and taking the courage to go after your own success in life.
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Shifting From Static: How To Pursue Your Passion And Start Living Life With Rusty Gaillard
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Rusty Gaillard. Rusty is the former Worldwide Director at Finance at Apple. Rusty left his 25-year corporate career in 2019 for more meaningful work, helping other top performers escape the A trap and we’re going to dig into that. With over a decade of personal and professional development experience, Rusty was certified as a Transformational Leadership Coach in 2018. He is an International Best-Selling Author of Breaking The Code. He didn't waste any time. He is a sought-after speaker and leadership coach. He lives in Silicon Valley with his wife, Alex, and son Teddy. It is my pleasure to have you on the show.
Thank you, Tony. It's great to be here with you.
I'm thrilled to have you here, Rusty. It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to digging into your story. You and I, we're cut from the same cloth in many regards. We’re from two different sides of the country but for the most part, we have similar stories coming from finance worlds, different industries. I'm looking forward to hearing your story of creating who you are. We're going to do that through what's called flashpoints, which will be these points in your story that ignited your gifts into the world. With that, Rusty, we're going to give you the space to explore and start wherever you like, whatever you're called to share.
As you said, there's much in common between the two of us, and it's such a pleasure to have this conversation with you. The flashpoint that comes to mind for me is not directly related to my work at all but it connects back to the work that I'm doing now. It was a moment in 2013, where I was about to get divorced, and things were not going well in my relationship. I had been seeing a therapist. We had been seeing a therapist together. We weren't making progress. We were still in the midst of this difficult place. I want us to do something more and deeper than that.
I was exploring a retreat. What can I do that allows me to go deeper than an hour at a time? I couldn't find a retreat but I did find this place in Kentucky that you can go to, and you live there for an extended period of time. You fully commit yourself to learning about yourself, growing, becoming a better person, and overcoming the things that hold you back.
I was thinking about going, and it terrified me. Everything in my life at this point had been successful. This is how I saw myself. This is the way I wanted others to see me as a "successful person" who had it all together. The idea of checking out of life and checking into this place in the woods in Kentucky for multiple weeks was not a success in my book. It did terrify me. It felt like this huge flashpoint, this existential moment of, "Who am I and how do I make a decision like that?"
First of all, for anyone going through a divorce or going through hardships in their career and relationships, it's tough, and it's a feeling of not sure what to do with that. At that moment, saying committing to wanting to go deeper is the first step. To think about going into this deeper experience and seeing that as may be giving up or the badge of, "I'm really bad. I'm going into this dark place." In reality, it's more like letting go of that.
For me, this came up in the context of my marriage or relationship. I've come to appreciate that we reach these points in all aspects of life. You can reach a point like that regarding your health or your work where you're unhappy or you feel like you're in an environment that doesn't suit you well. It happens in all aspects of life. Fundamentally, the choice that we're making is, "Am I going to go deeper into this place of darkness or challenge? Am I going to face it or am I going to turn around the other way and tolerate it some more?”
From my personal experience, it takes huge courage and a leap of faith because you don't know how it's going to turn out to move forward and to go into something like that. It's tempting to go the other way. Just say, "I'm going to ignore this. I'm going to pretend it's not there. I'm going to try to push on and make do doing the same thing I've always done as opposed to being willing to do something new and different."
You can have people in your life that just want the best for you without an agenda.
There’s this view, especially for men, it's to be that strong person and put that facade out there that says, "If I put on a strong face and pretend that everything is going to be fine, then it will be, and I'll pressure on." What you leaned into is this, “I need to go into this. I need to lean into this experience so that I can, in essence, have a better life on the other side.”
I'm so glad that you brought that in about men because men stereotypically, we don't like to ask for directions when we're lost. Why would we ever admit that we're lost in life? For this sake, I'm not lost going to the restaurant. I'm definitely not lost in life. That flashpoint of making that decision to go to this place in Kentucky, I ended up spending six weeks there.
When I came back, I started a men's group. For six years, we met every week, and we talked about the good, the bad, the ugly in life, everything was on the table. That ability to form that connection with other men and to feel like there are people on my side was a whole new experience for me, and it changed my life.
It always comes back to this element of wanting to embrace your feelings so that you can know that they're there and experience them. Once you do, you can see that on the other side of this. You're going to be able to have the ability to have higher highs and lower lows but you can manage them. You can feel the range. One of my favorite quotes is from Peter Bregman, which is, "If you're willing to feel everything, you can have anything." It's an overused quote for me because I feel like it's ingrained in my lexicon but it's true.
I'm totally comfortable talking about feelings and in that context but hearing you say that there's an element that I think about, which is, it's not about feelings. It's willing to accept all of you. When I think about myself, there's a part of me that is courageous, bold, forward-moving, and creative, all of that but there's a part of me that's nervous and questions whether, “Am I good enough and wants to be accepted by others?”
We have all of these different parts of ourselves. Just because you've got some of that doubt or uncertainty, it doesn't take away from your gifts and your strengths. It's this ability to be open to all of it where the magic happens because then you say, "I see the part of me that is hesitant. Am I going to act on that or am I going to act on the part of me that's willing to be courageous and move forward, even when I'm hesitant?"
Taking action even in the face of the hesitation and all those things that are seemingly wanting to hold you back from being in your full potential, still doing it and saying like, "I can do big things."
Oftentimes that feels like a leap of faith. It did for me, when I go back to that decision to go to this place in Kentucky, that felt like a huge leap of faith. I was terrified. I didn't know how it would turn out but I did it anyway. I encountered another point like that when I left Apple to become a coach full-time. I didn't know how that was going to turn out. It was a total leap of faith. Like, "Can I do this? Do I have the courage to risk failure to go from being an expert on what I did to be a beginner at what I did and not knowing what will happen?”
I want to dig into this because this is exactly the thing I figured what's coming up next. What I want to know is what were people telling you as you were making this change? Were there a lot of people saying to you, "You're absolutely nuts?”
I did not tell a lot of people that I was making this change initially. One example of that is my dad. I did not tell my dad until I was further down the road because my dad worked at a big company, worked at the same company for 35 years. He was very successful. His model of a good career was to find a good company and stay there. I knew if I told him, I would get pushback. I also knew back to accepting all of myself that I was vulnerable to his influence.
I wanted this to be my decision. I deliberately didn't tell him until I was solid in the decision. I knew what I was doing. I was further down the road, at which point I felt more solid, and then I could have the conversation with him and knew that I wouldn't be that influenced. Had I talked about it early on, I knew I would have been influenced by him and I may not have done it.
It's such a strong influence when you have people in your life who you want their advice, approval, and endorsement, and you tend to like shy away. I've had a guest on before who's told me that he literally hid the fact that he left his company for more than a year before telling his family that he's become a coach like it was a shameful thing. It's funny how people do that.
I'm going to go back to if you're willing to feel anything, you can do anything. It's the same thing. You have to be willing to face and embrace it. Being willing to face, embrace and acknowledge it, and then choose what are you going to do. Fortunately, I told you about this men's group that I was a part of, and we developed a very close relationship. They knew about this whole journey because I knew they wanted the best for me.
They didn't have a stake in the game. They didn't care if I was a coach or worked at Apple or whatever. They wanted the best for me. It's been so powerful to have people like that in your life. I hope for everyone reading, you have at least one person like that in your life or multiple. If you don't, search it out because they're there. You can have people in your life like that just want the best for you without an agenda.
Invest your time in ways that matter to you.
I love what you said because that's been a common theme for a lot of people is that realizing that you're not alone in your journey. Even when you feel like you're alone in the pursuit of something new or going into the unknown, new territory, it doesn't mean you can't be supported by people who can cheer you on when you need a champion. Also, help you through those challenging moments that need a little support.
It's one of the things that I love about the work that I do as a Coach. Part of it is structure, tools, and techniques to help people find what it is they want and then to go do that. The other part of it is that unconditional belief and support in their capability because we all need that to be successful.
It's so important that people know that's out there. That there are people out there who are going to be a champion for you and see you through all the things, even the things that you missed step on. Like, “You made a mistake and how do you recover from that,” and then still be seen as somebody who has value, who can move forward through all of those mistakes you make. There's a thing I've been thinking about, which is this guy, Benjamin Zander, the author of The Art of Possibility. When you miss making a mistake, he's like, "How fantastic." I love that quote because when you make a mistake, it's an opportunity to learn from that mistake. You jump right into it.
I don't remember who said this. He was in the military whenever someone came and said, "We have a problem." His answer was always, "Good." It's the exact same reason. That's where you learn. That's where the opportunities are.
You made the decision to leave corporate and what was the first thing that you started to lean into and what were the biggest mistakes you made as you first got in your journey of being a coach?
One thing is I had worked at Apple for many years. I'd been there a long time. I fully expected to be thinking about Apple and missing it, engaged in it, all of that after I left. I'll be honest with you. I was surprised how quickly that fell behind me in the rearview mirror. I was so engaged in what I was doing as a Coach. For me, that was reaching out to people, connecting with them, talking about what I was doing.
The thing that I probably did too much then, and honestly, I might still be doing too much of this but I'm aware of this is that telling other people what to do. I hate to say it but it's tempting. I've had some success down this path of becoming a coach and I've had some experience with it. I want to encourage other people but encouragement is not always the same as telling them what to do.
Especially in the early days, I was a little bit heavier on telling people what to do. That's a mistake that I made. I've gotten much better about listening to people and encouraging them to explore within themselves. What is it that you want? It's not up to me. It's up to each person to figure out what matters to you.
The example I always give is to imagine when you're 80 or 90 years old, reflecting back on your life when most of your life has been lived and completed. You think about, “How did I do? Do I feel good about the way I spend my time? What was important to me? What do I value? What are the experiences and relationships that stand out?” Think about those things now and create them, and invest in them. You only get one shot. It's a one-way road, and at the end of the road, lights out, that's it. Invest your time in ways that matter to you.
What you described is powerful because we're always anxious to get to the answer or even as a person who's helping to guide people through that process, you feel the energy and the excitement of getting to the answer. Sometimes the best thing you can do, and we can do, is to slow things down and to lean into the discomfort and the moment. Use the silence as a period of like, "What's happening here? What is the real thing that we want to lean into?" That visioning exercise is powerful because it gets you thinking way off in the distance. It brings you back into the very moment of now, of how we can use this moment to create that.
As you're saying that one of the other things I realized was when I started this journey as a coach, I was less comfortable sitting in that unclear zone, where there's not a decision. I wanted people to decide. "Decide you're going to go make a difference in your life. Go do something." I had this energy behind it. I've become much more comfortable with the truth that some people want to make a change in their life. Some do not. Some are happy where they are, some are unhappy but still unwilling to make a change and that's okay.
Everyone has their own path. Everybody gets to make a decision about what's right for them. I've become much more understanding and comfortable with that. My real intention here is to support the people that I intersect with, whether that's a longtime friend or a short-term acquaintance, I want to support them. I want them to have the best life they can.
You are truly a champion for people and that optimism is reigning through. That's what's powerful and what's needed now. There's also an element of getting people to step into action when they need it, when they've expressed interest. They have to first connect with the desire to move in that direction. It has to be their intention. Sounds like the big lesson you've learned along this journey is figuring out how to get people to connect with what they want, and then help them along the journey of creating what they want.
They have to say yes. I remember I had a conversation with someone, at the end of it, I said, "How was this conversation?" This person said, "It was great but it's like 25 other conversations I've had and nothing ever changes." I was like, "You know what the problem is. You know why nothing's ever-changing it's because you're not making a change." Sometimes being caring about someone is holding up the mirror and saying, "You got to look in the mirror here, buddy because the reason nothing is changing is you're not doing anything differently."
I want to bring this back to you about this reflection to say, "When you look at your life, the reflection of what you've accomplished and transformed about yourself, what is it you've learned about yourself that you've changed that has made the difference?” You've already shared a lot but I wanted to see what you come up with as the key things that you've learned.
One of the things I've studied as a coach is different levels of relating to the world. One level of relating to the world is things that happen to me. It's like a victim idea, which is all this stuff happened to me. "I got stuck in traffic and my boss was a jerk," all of these things are happening to me. The next level is that things happen to me. I get it done. I'm going to make this thing happen. I'm not going to stop until it's complete.
You can create a lot of success in your life that way. I've lived a lot of my life in that place as a by me kind of person. “I'm going to get this done. I'm going to make it happen. I'm persistent and committed. I bring a lot of energy to things." It's tiring. Sometimes you can get burned out and worn out. A lot of people that I interact with, smart, successful people are by me kind of people. Make it happen.
There's another level past that, to me, by me, and through me. This is where I'm learning and exploring is this place of, through me, which is, what if success doesn't mean harder work and more pushing? What if success can happen through me or I have a role in it but it's not all me. There's more at work here than just me. I'm finding this place.
I see this with my clients as well that when I have a clear intention of where it is that I'm going, I do the things that I know to do but I allow space for the world to happen around me. For coincidence or happenstance to take place, for people to come to me, and find me when I make space for all of that, all of a sudden, success can feel easier and more fluid.
Sometimes, caring about someone is holding up the mirror and saying the reason nothing is changing is that you’re not doing anything differently.
A simple example of that is some of the people that I work with. Some of the people who come to me and find me and say, "I want to work with you as a coach." If I'm in the mindset of, "I got to make this happen and I got to find people. It's been a slow month and I got to go get three more clients this month." I'm way less successful and happy than when I open up and say, "I would love to have three more clients this month. I'm going to do the things I know how to do. I'm going to be open to the fact that someone may call out of the blue and reach out to me." When I'm open to that, it happens. It's phenomenal to go from by me to through me.
It seems like magic. In reality, it's a change in the way that we show up. The way you described it is powerful that it happens through you and not by you. The reality is the people who say that it's done by me are the people who are the overdoers, who were addicted to constantly being in motion and saying, "If it is to be, it's up to me, and I have to keep on moving and pushing." They burn themselves out in the process of trying to do that.
We mentioned briefly about me the A-trap. That is one of the traps. People who are A students, you get by it to be an A student by working hard. You arrive at work. You're a top performer, high potential, at the top of the heap, how do you get there? By working hard, attention to detail, being in control, all of those things are by me kind of mentalities.
It can hold people back. That's why it's a trap because in order to get to the next level, you've got to let go of some of that. Letting go is scary because the way I've been successful so far is being in the details, working hard, and grinding it out. In order to let go, it takes some courage but that's how you get to the next level.
I have a question for you. That's a little bit out there. I'd love to see what you think about this. Do you think people need to go through a crash to see that there is a better life on the other side?
I actually do not but most people do. I did. I went through a crash with the divorce, which I've described. It's pain or possibility. Those are the things that can drive change and growth. What we tend to undervalue or under-assess is the impact or the pain of staying static, staying where we are. I’ll go back to the example of me leaving Apple.
When I left, I put myself out there at 80 or 90 years old, I looked back at my life and said, "What is a better decision for me? Stay on the safe route of continuing my job at Apple. It's a great company. I'm doing well and paid well. It's stable and so on or to take a risk where I might fail but I'm doing something personally meaningful that I want to do and following my heart?”
From that perspective, 80 or 90 years old, it was black and white. It was obvious to do become a coach. It took me putting myself out there to see the pain of staying static because there's a risk to that and an impact of it. You've got to look at it or you disregard it because that's what's normal to you and you're used to it.
You have to have that like take yourself out of the situation. You have to literally take yourself out of your life and have that moment, almost out of body experience where you look at yourself and say, "What is happening down here on the dance floor? What's happening down here so that I can have perspective on what's going on and how can I shape the next steps going forward?"
Do I want to keep doing this dance for the next 5 years or 10 years?
Most people also have a struggle with is this ability to see, "What am I risking?" If you go and try something out and it doesn't work out, there's always something else, a new pivot. There's a new way to shape a pivot from there to another thing. I'm not sure if you agree with that.
Just as you were saying that I will share, my dad passed away. It was not COVID-related. It happened during COVID. It happened very quickly. He had cancer. After he died, you look around and it's like, "What's left of life?" We worked hard to be "successful." To accumulate things, to have a big house, all of that stuff and at the end, the stereotypical phrase is, “You can't take it with you,” which is very trite but it's true.
All of that stuff that's left behind, now what happens to that? I think about my dad and it's an emotional connection, and that's what matters. You think about what you are risking if you go off and do something new or try something different but something that's important to you, whether you're risking a financial challenge, instability or some of those things and at the end of your life, you leave all that stuff behind. I'm not trying to diminish it entirely but it's certainly important to put that in perspective.
You take measured risks. Risks that are something that you're willing to put out there and give it a try. You don't want to be in a situation, where you're going to spend every last dollar on some startup that you have no experience doing that. What you want to be able to do is do something that your heart's into, you have a feeling that you're passionate about, so you can lean into it and you'll see it through. If you're doing it because everyone else is doing it because society says, "This is a good thing. You should go do this." You might not do it.
One of the things that have come up in one of our other conversations is this adjusting to the feedback you get along the way. Some people call those failures. Making adjustments based on that. It's like maybe this isn't quite the right course but you can adjust. You have to have some faith in your ability to keep moving, learn, grow and adjust through the process.
Tell us one more thing, what is one thing about the book that you want people to know an insight from Breaking The Code, which is a fantastic book?
I'll share a tool that people can apply because that's useful. For anyone who's reading, we're talking about doing something that's meaningful to you and doing something important. Oftentimes, what I hear from people is, “I don't know what that is.” That was me, I didn't know either. The career advice people used to say to me is, "Do what you're passionate about and you'll never work a day in your life."
I was frustrated by that because I didn't know what I was passionate about. What I outlined in the book is a simple tool. It's what I call, Finding the Zone of Possibility. There are three ingredients to the Zone of Possibility. The first is quiet. You've got to find a place of quiet and that's for two reasons. One is to quiet the outside noise because there's so much coming at us.
We're busy in life, we get messages, Slack messages, text messages, and all of that. You need some distance from that. You need quiet externally, but you also need quiet internally because we have a lot of mental dialogue going all the time. You need to find a way to step away from that. Some people do that through meditation but it could be going for a walk, doing the dishes, it doesn't matter. Find a place for you where you can connect with yourself. That's the first piece, quiet.
The second ingredient is the heart. If you're going to find something that's important and meaningful to you, you're not going to do it by analyzing your way there, any more than you analyze your way to what you want to eat for dinner. It's not an analytical question. It's what you are hungry for. That's a heart and gut decision. You've got to listen to your heart and to your gut.
The third piece is courage because it takes courage to listen to those things. Sometimes you might be like me where the answer from your heart says, "I want to leave my 25-year corporate career and go do something new." It takes a lot of courage even to listen to that idea, to honor it, rather than throwing it out immediately as on as it comes up. That little trifecta there, quiet, heart, and courage is a nice place to get to that Zone of Possibility, to get curious and creative about what would be meaningful and impactful for you in your life.
Knowing that, I hear myself going through the exercise. Sometimes it's hard to do because we do often find ourselves in this place where even though we have great intentions, we start filling ourselves up with all the stuff the, "I can't do that. I shouldn't do this," or all these things that get in the way. If we connect with those three pieces, there are no excuses. It gets you to get that clarity with those three pieces coming together.
That clarity is what challenges a lot of people.
We tend to undervalue or under-assess the impact or the pain of staying static.
I often say it is an inspiration through honest conversations but the first conversation is with yourself. That conversation can't be had until you're willing to get quiet, connect with your heart and have the courage. I have one last question for you. What are 1 or 2 books that have had an impact on you and why?
I'm going to share two books with you. One was from a number of years ago, it's by a psychologist named Terry Real and the book is called I Don't Want to Talk About It. It's about men who, when you say, "What's going on with life? How are you doing? I don't want to talk about it." It explores that. This is obviously not unique to men and some women are like this but a lot of men resonate with this idea that we don't want to talk about our lives. That book, for me, explored why that is some of the value, being able to talk about it. It opened the door to me of being more human and shedding some of the stereotypical characteristics of being a man. That was one of the books that were impactful.
I'm looking forward to checking that out because we need something like that. Everyone needs some help to open up the flood gates and hear a little bit more about those things that we're hiding. We're not sharing. What's the second book?
The second one is Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow. I read that one and I loved that book. It talks about how we make decisions and reinforced some of what I wrote about in my book, Breaking The Code. Daniel Kahneman is all about 95% of the way we navigate life is unconscious. It's habits and this fast-thinking mechanism we have about making decisions and doing this or that but it's not that we think through them. They just happen. That's why I talk about is the code. We all have a code. If you want to do something different early with your life, you've got to break the code. This book articulated that and he's so smart. He's done the research and experiments. It was a great read.
The connection to the code is powerful because you're right. That book is one that continues to stay with you and you say like, "I now see something else in that book that I didn't see before." You probably read that again at some point. I know I've read it a couple of times myself. I love all of the things you've shared, your stories, your insights and everything. I am grateful and thankful for coming to the show. This has been a lot of fun. Thank you for coming on.
It's been great, Tony. Thank you so much for having me. I always enjoy connecting with you.
Before I let you go, I want to make sure people know where to find you. What's the best place for people to connect with you?
The first place is my website, RustyGaillard.com. You can also find me on LinkedIn and my book, Breaking The Code. You can find that on Amazon. If you go to Amazon, I encourage you to search for Breaking The Code Rusty because there are other books with that name out there and that will bump my book right to the top. I'd love to connect with your audience. If there's something here that resonated or you're curious and you want to ask about, I'd love to connect with you. Look me up in one of those places and let's connect.
Pick up Rusty's book. It's fantastic. Connect with Rusty. He's pretty amazing. Thank you so much again and thanks to the readers for coming on the journey. This has been an amazing conversation.
- Breaking The Code
- The Art of Possibility
- I Don't Want to Talk About It
- Thinking, Fast and Slow
- LinkedIn - Rusty Gaillard
About Rusty Gaillard
Most high achievers are committed 100% to their work.
They're effective but exhausted.
Good enough never is.
They do what it takes because they’re driven to achieve results. And they do.
But they’re at risk of burn out.
If that’s you, what do you do?
As an ambitious, results-oriented person, you likely do what you’ve always done.
Push yourself. Exceed expectations. Tell yourself you’ll get a break when you catch up.
Welcome to the A Trap.
A = achieved many of your goals
T = tired from the never-ending effort
R = realizing you’re not as happy as you used to be
A = asking yourself if there’s another way
P = powering through the way you always have
You were taught, way back in school, to excel at the assignments you’re given, to be the best.
But being the best means doing MORE… when what you really want is LESS.
Less stress, less work, less zoom.
Less anxiety, less doubt, less fear.
But you’re not ready to give up success.
NO TRADE OFF REQUIRED
My son was 2 when I was promoted to Director of Finance at Apple.
I was proud of my accomplishment and wanted to keep climbing.
But being a father is also important to me.
Work and parenting conflicted nearly every day.
I never could do it all, no matter how hard I tried.
I felt like a failure at work and at home.
Not seeing another path, I demoted myself.
I took a lower level job to be more present at home.
I made a trade off because I couldn’t see another way.
Now I help others have success WITHOUT the trade off.
I don’t like time management.
Effectiveness isn’t a tactic, or even a strategy.
It’s a practice of bringing your best self to everything you do.
Imagine what you could do if you were always at your best?
But to bring your best self, you have to do LESS, not more.
You have much more power to shape your job and your life than you have been using.
To learn more, check out the first 2 chapters free from my best selling book, Breaking the Code.